Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence by Katie Campbell - review by Charles Elliott

Charles Elliott

Foetid Romanticism

Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence


Frances Lincoln 176pp £35 order from our bookshop

In 1855, the Goncourt brothers described Florence as ‘ville toute Anglaise’, which, though slightly inaccurate because there were plenty of Americans too, was close to the truth. For those Anglo-Saxons with money and time on their hands (and a taste for art, and the fashionable medieval), Florence was the place to come – and if possible, to settle. Beginning with the fall of Napoleon and increasing as the century wore on, thousands fled depressing northern climates and unromantic homelands for this old and deeply charming city. As Katie Campbell notes in her beautifully written account, by 1869 30,000 of Florence’s 200,000 inhabitants were either British or American.

The most favoured of all, generally meaning those wealthy enough to be spared financial worries, were the expatriates who purchased villas on the hills surrounding the city and restored them, creating private elysiums complete with gardens, historical resonances and nightingales. Villeggiatura, the rural retreat, had a long tradition

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter